Erotic films on television: analysis on the debate on its influence on youth A term paper submitted in partial fulfillment of MAC 322 Mass Media and Society Akinyele Omolola 10/52HN009 May 2, 2013 Contents Background1 Theorietical framework4 Global evidence of television influence on the behaviour of young people7 Debate11 Change in Attitudes11 Erotic Films on Television and Sexual Violence14 Premature or inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit content19 Sexual Addiction21 The inappropriate acceptance and adoption of non-mainstream sexual practices22 References26 Background
Few inventions of the Twentieth Century were more remarkable, more powerful, or more influential in the daily lives of citizens throughout the world than television. That influence grows daily as more and more areas of the world have access to television and the number of televisions per household increases. The average household has the television set turned on 8 hours and 14 minutes daily. For many children, Television has become the second parent, and to some, more powerful and influential even than their real life parents. The average time children, adolescents and young adults spend watching TV each day is two to four hours.
To say that television programming has a profound social impact is a great understatement. Television can be a source of good or evil. At its best, it is educational and entertaining. At worst, it is prurient and frightening. It can be provocative, but it can also be mind numbing, as well. Harm from television programming is hotly debated in some quarters. The question of whether television programming harms, and that is a question with which the world is wrestling now, is, in my judgment, really a question of whether television programming influences.
Shows depicting violence, sex, and profanity influence. Television shapes the attitudes, outlook, and morality of its viewers. This is not mere conjecture; advertisers know this and are willing to pay vast sums of money because of it. Erotic films are everywhere as illustrated by (Struthers, 2009) “I put on self imposed blinders as I wade through tantalizing advertisements with Victoria’s Secret models in the margins of my weather forecast. My Internet service provider’s homepage is littered with dating services (“Hot Single Girls in Your Neighbourhood Looking for Love! ) and my sports websites have galleries of scantily clad cheerleaders. If I watch a soccer match on television with my children, I have to be vigilant to change the channel when commercials for Viagra are aired. In a world that has been hyper sexualized, it is hard to get through the day without being battered and numbed by the intrusions of erotic films. ” This is further confirmed by (Sarracino & Scott, 2008, p. xii) “porn is a cultural trend affecting all age groups, all races, and all classes, and that virtually every aspect of ordinary day-to-day life is being shaped by porn.
It’s not, then, much that porn has become mainstream, which we often hear, as that the mainstream has become porned. Increasingly…we live porn in our daily lives. Although, this study is on erotic movies, it should be noted that erotic movie has no clear definition “What’s erotic to you is art to me,” Erotic is in the eye of the beholder. Many argue that what is erotic is culturally defined and that culture changes. Erotic refers to art or literature intended to arouse sexual desire by portraying sex in an explicit way. It is a synonym of pornography, sexually explicit material (SEM) and porn.
In this paper it would be used interchangeably with those terms. Logically, worldwide there have been thousands of studies about the television’s sexual content showing that the share of sexual scenes on TV is very high, from cartoons to sports news. Television, which has an enormous influence on the audience, holds a great responsibility for the education of the people. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the debate on the influence of erotic films on young people. Theoretical framework Sexual messages on the television can have both immediate and long-term effects.
Viewing a television program may change a person’s immediate state by inducing arousal, leading to inhibition of impulses, or activating thoughts or associations. It may also contribute to enduring learned patterns of behaviour, cognitive scripts and schemas about sexual interactions, attitudes, and beliefs about the real world. Immediate effects are the focus of Zillmann’s arousal theory. According to that theory, if television content produces emotional and physiological arousal, some type of behaviour is likely to follow.
Whether or not that behaviour is “sexual” depends on both the personality of the viewer and the environmental circumstances. Because arousal is non-specific, it can also lead to aggression, altruism, or other forms of behaviour if the conditions are conducive to those behaviours. Theories based on observational learning and information processing emphasize lasting effects of exposure to media content. Bandura’s observational learning theory suggests that children will learn not only the mechanics of sexual behaviour, but the contexts, motives and consequences portrayed.
They will attend to and learn from models that are attractive, powerful, rewarded, and similar to them. Children do not usually act immediately on what they learn from television; instead, they store such knowledge to be used when their own circumstances elicit it. Berkowitz’s cognitive neoassociationist theory was proposed as a way of understanding effects of violent content, but it appears equally applicable to sexual content. Although similar to observational learning theory in many respects, the theory gives a central place to the viewer’s emotional responses as the links between learned media content and later behaviour.
As emotional responses to sexual content are likely to be intense, this idea seems especially Pertinent to “effects” of such content. Huesmann argues that children learn social and sexual schemas (expectations) and scripts for sexual interactions from exposure to television. This view implies that it is important to examine what is learned about the circumstances for sexual activity, communication, negotiation, and decision-making. Scripts and schemas learned in childhood have particular importance as the child grows because young people may not have well-developed ideas and understandings of sexuality.
Content viewed later may modify such schemas or reinforce them, but will not have quite the “primacy” of what was initially learned. Cultivation theory (Signorielli & Morgan, 1990) also predicts that mass media convey images of socially normative behaviour and that young people absorb impressions and assumptions about whom, when, how often, under what circumstances sexual interactions occur. All of these theories recognize that “effects” of this phenomenon are not unidirectional.
Children are not just recipients of television messages; they choose the content to which they are exposed, and they interpret the content within their own frames of reference. But, some theories give prime importance to the active nature of viewers in selecting and using media. From this Viewpoint, “effects” result from availability of content to serve different functions and from understanding the viewer’s interactions with the medium. Cognitive developmental theory is especially important for the topic of sexuality because of the very large age differences in both comprehension and interest in sex.
Collins’ research on children’s understanding of violent content has demonstrated that children interpret media content according to their level of cognitive development generally and their knowledge about the content more particularly. Similarly, one would expect children in late childhood, early, and middle adolescence to interpret and react to erotic films on television very differently. In the communications field, “uses and gratifications” theories emphasize that people use media to serve different functions.
If we want to understand the “effects” of sexual content, we must know why a young person views it. Is that individual looking for information, for arousal (either alone or with a partner), for rebellion (forbidden fruit), or for something else? Global evidence of television influence on the behaviour of young people A considerable body of research from developed countries, particularly the US, suggests that the visual media influence a broad range of attitudes and behaviours among young people and may exacerbate risky practices.
These studies have largely followed the “media-effects” model and explored the impact of the television on certain risk-taking behaviours such as engaging in sex, use of tobacco and alcohol, aggression and violence as well as such other behaviours as adopting new clothing styles and mannerisms, among others. Studies conducted in the US, in the 1970s and 1980s, have shown a consistent relationship between media viewing and sexual behaviour.
For example, a study that compared pregnant and non-pregnant girls found that girls who had become pregnant were more likely to have been watching soap operas prior to the pregnancy (Corder-Bolz, 1981), while another linked TV watching preferences to earlier initiation of sexual experience (Peterson and Kahn, 1984). Further, while viewing media with sexual content was observed to be positively linked to the viewer’s permissive attitude toward pre-marital sex (Greeson and Williams, 1986), viewing more sexual content on television was found to increase the likelihood of engaging in sexual intercourse among teens (Brown and Newcomer, 1991).
Reviewing the impact of the media on adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviours, Escobar-Chaves and her colleagues found that exposure to NC-17 rated films (a rating that prohibits admission of anyone who is 17 or under into a theatre) increased the likelihood of having multiple sexual partners, engaging in sex more often, testing positive for HIV AIDS, and having more negative attitudes toward condom use (Escobar-Chaves et al. , 2004).
Based on their study with adolescents, Brown and her colleagues suggested that sexually explicit media act as a sexual “super peer” for teenage youth by serving as a readily available and accessible source of sexual information in the absence of significant counsel from family and school (Brown et al. , 2005). In a subsequent study, Brown et al used “sexual media diet” (SMD), an index of exposure to sexual content in the mass media, to explore media influences on adolescent sexual behaviour (Brown et al. , 2006).
Their longitudinal studies revealed that white adolescent girls in the top 20% of a random sample of SMD density when 12 to 14 years old, were more than twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse at age 14 to 16 as girls who had SMDs with densities in the lower 80%. On the other hand, black teens reported a greater influence of “perceptions of their parents’ expectations and their friends’ sexual behaviour” than what they saw and heard in the media, a finding that points to the need to identify the cultural and social factors that account for apparently large variations in young people’s vulnerability to media influence.
Strasburger and Donnerstein also support the view that individual characteristics of young people such as race, ethnicity and family background have not been explored well enough to understand their relationship with media consumption and subsequent influence (Strasburger and Donnerstein, 1999). A WHO study further noted that “films have created a yearning for romance” and that to be labelled ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ implies “popularity, coolness and modernity”.
Findings also showed that gangster erotic films are particularly popular with college students and dialogues from these films are used in everyday conversations with friends; when combined with the right kind of accessories (such as motorbikes and mobile phones) this not only becomes a style statement but an indicator of belonging to a youth sub-culture (WHO, 2003). Among efforts to study the influence of the visual media on sexual behaviour is a study of 300 school girls in Pune which found a strong correlation between their TV watching habits and involvement with boys (Joshi, 2005).
Other studies have reported that adolescents “select” songs and speaking styles from films and TV for use as “scripts” in heterosexual interactions (Belaku Trust, 2004). Schwartz found that the media can provide information on fashion, beauty and body satisfaction, and has the potential to provide positive images for adolescents in the process of their social development and emerging sense of identity, of which fashion decisions are a part (Schwartz, 2004). Debate Change in Attitudes
The literature on the effects of sexual media content also includes correlational studies in which young people’s naturally occurring exposure to the media is used to compare their attitudes and behaviours. Strasburger and Wilson (2002, p. 177) note that of six studies on the relationship between onset of sexual intercourse and amount of sexual content viewed on television, only one is longitudinal and four are more than a decade old. Nevertheless, most studies demonstrate measurable effects.
One study found that teenagers whose television diet includes higher proportions of sexual content were also more likely to have engaged in sexual intercourse. Another study found a correlation between young women’s exposure to music videos and their premarital sex (Huston et al. p. 14, 27). A recent US study of 18 to 20 year old students concluded that greater exposure to sexual content on television correlated with a belief that one’s peers are sexually active and a more favourable attitude towards recreational sex (Strasburger & Wilson 2002, p. 159).
Given that such studies are correlational, it is equally plausible that sexual content on television teaches such attitudes, that individuals with such attitudes are drawn to watching programs with sexual content, or that both patterns are caused by other external factors. Dr. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Programme at the University of Pennsylvania’s Centre for Cognitive Therapy, has shown that exposure to erotic films on television on a regular basis is extremely harmful. Layden said there is a correlation between viewing pornographic materials even soft porn on television and sexual behaviour mong individuals. Viewing erotic films leads to, what Dr. Layden calls, “permission-giving beliefs,” which she describes as beliefs that claim the action the person is doing is Normal, does not hurt anyone and that everyone is doing them. The individual involved, she notes, does not think they need to change their behaviour. She cites the following examples of such beliefs: that sex is a consumer commodity that can be bought, sold or stolen at anytime; sex is a male entitlement; male sexuality is viciously narcissistic, predatory and out of control; women enjoy degrading sex and women’s bodies are just sexual entertainment for men.
She notes that college students who continue to watch pornography can adapt these beliefs, which lead to developing a pattern of unhealthy sexual relationships and dangerous sexual behaviour. Prolonged exposure to pornography, Layden says, can even lead to a high likelihood to commit rape. Several experimental studies document changes in attitudes and knowledge among adolescents exposed to sexual media content when compared to a control group who are not shown the same material.
They have found:
• adolescents who saw portrayals of pre-, extra- or non-marital sexual relations rate these portrayals as less bad than did peers who saw portrayals of marital sexual relations or non-sexual relations between adults;
• Teenagers who saw TV scenes with sexual content learnt terms referring to such activities as homosexuality and prostitution;
• Exposure to music videos is associated with greater acceptance of premarital sex;
• students shown programs containing information about pregnancy and menstruation, for example, knew more factual information than those who were not shown this material (Huston et. l. 1998, p. 14). One can conclude from the small body of research evidence described that exposure to sexual media content such as on television can change young viewers’ attitudes and knowledge, and there is weak evidence of a relationship between television viewing and sexual behaviour and beliefs (Huston et. al 1998, p. 16). However, it is only a set of ethical, moral or political values which allows us to determine whether these effects are good, bad or neutral (Thornburgh & Lin 2002, p. 75). For example, moral conservatives may judge young women’s premarital sex as negative given their belief in the desirability of sex only within marriage, while advocates of comprehensive sexuality education may be more concerned with whether this sex was consenting and safe or coerced and risky. Finally, media messages have more influence if young people perceive them to be accurate, realistic and high quality (Huston et. al 1998, pp. 15-16). Erotic Films on Television and Sexual Violence
There is a more substantial body of research evidence on the impact of sexual content and pornography among young adults and adults in general. A wide range of studies has been conducted among young people aged 18 to 25, often populations of youths in tertiary. In terms of the impact of erotic films, one of the most important areas of social concern has been its impact on men’s sexual behaviour towards women, and particularly male sexual aggression or rape.
This concern is expressed neatly in the now-famous slogan advanced by some feminist anti-pornography advocates in the 1980s: ‘Pornography is the theory, and rape the practice’ (Morgan 1980, p. 139). In other words, for these advocates, pornography or any sexually explicit material plays a causal role in sexual violence against women, although other feminist (and non-feminist) commentators dispute this.
Thus many empirical studies on pornography’s impact concern the question of sexual aggression. Most focus on the attitudes and behaviours of males, driven in part by the recognition that it is males who are responsible for the majority of sexual assaults, whether against females or other males. If exposure to erotic films on television does shape sexually violent attitudes and behaviours, then this is an important inclusion in our assessment of the impact of pornography on young people.
Empirical research among adults on erotic films and sexual aggression can be divided into four types, according to two dimensions of the study. First, some studies are experimental, often in laboratory conditions, and involve testing the impact of exposure to pornography on participants’ attitudes or aggressive behaviour; other studies are correlational and involve the investigation of possible relationships between regular viewing of erotic films (in everyday life) and attitudes or aggressive behaviour.
Furthermore, among correlational studies, some compare the use of pornography and other forms of erotica by people convicted of sexually violent crimes with that by non-criminals, while others compare pornography use and reported sexual aggression among non-criminals. The second dimension concerns the dependent variable. Some studies focus on factors believed to affect sexual aggression, particularly attitudes supportive of rape, while others focus on sexually aggressive behaviours themselves (Malamuth et. al pp. 41-42).
There is considerable disagreement in the literature on erotic films regarding the significance of the existing body of empirical evidence, with some authors arguing for a clear relationship between exposure to erotic films and sexual aggression and others saying there is no effect. However, the application to existing empirical studies of summary techniques or ‘meta-analysis’ does find consistent relationships. Malamuth et. al (2000) integrates the findings of meta-analytic summaries of experimental and naturalistic research.
They find that there is consistent and reliable evidence that exposure to or consumption of erotic films is related to male sexual aggression against women. This association is strongest for violent erotic films and still reliable for nonviolent erotic films, particularly by frequent users (Malamuth et. al 2000, p. 53). The authors also rebut claims, for example by Fisher and Grenier (1994), that there have not been any reliable connections found between the viewing of erotic films and sexual aggression. In arguing that there is an association between the use of erotic films and sexual aggression, there are two caveats to note.
First, erotic films and shows on television are not the sole determinant of men’s violence against women. Contemporary scholarship shows a growing emphasis on multivariate explanations of men’s violence against women in which it is assumed that violence is ‘a multifaceted phenomenon grounded in interplay among personal, situational, and socio-cultural factors’ (Heise 1998, pp. 263–264). Violence against women is more likely in cultures where manhood is culturally defined as linked to dominance, toughness or male honour (Heise 1998, p. 77). It is more likely to be practised by men who identify with traditional images of masculinity and male gender role privilege, have hostile and negative sexual attitudes towards women, believe in rape stereotypes, see violence as manly and desirable, and are attached to male peers who legitimate abuse of women. Nevertheless, sexually explicit movies on Television clearly play a role in helping foster the kinds of attitudes and values which may predispose some men to rape women. Second, erotic films on television are ot the only important source of sexist and violence-supportive discourses and representations, other type of television programmes and advertisements are also effective teachers of gender stereotyped and rape-supportive attitudes (Strasburger & Wilson 2002, p. 164). However, analysis of the 13 comparative studies on this question finds that convicted sex offenders do not use erotic films more frequently than men from the noncriminal general population, and their age of first exposure is not significantly lower (Malamuth et. l 2000, pp. 47-48). One complexity here is that the noncriminal general population includes individuals who have committed sexual offences but have not been convicted. Given the very low rates of reporting, prosecution and conviction of sexual assaults relative to other crimes, one may be comparing a population of known sex offenders with another population which includes unknown sex offenders. However, some differences are evident between offenders and non-offenders in their relationships to erotic films.
Compared to non offenders, convicted rapists are more likely to perform a sexual act (such as masturbation, consensual sex, or criminal sex) after viewing violent erotic films on Television, are more aroused by portrayals of non consenting sex and are less aroused by portrayals of consenting sex (Malamuth et. al 2000, p. 47-48). Finally, several studies have investigated potential relationships between men’s erotic films consumption and men’s self-reported likelihood of raping or sexually harassing a woman if they were assured of not being caught or punished.
This is a measure of attraction to sexual aggression rather than of sexual aggression itself. These studies find that men who watch television programmes with hardcore, violent, or rape erotic scenes, and men who are high-frequency users of pornography, are also significantly more likely than non-users or low-frequency users to report that they would rape or sexually harass a woman if they knew they could get away with it (Malamuth et. al 2000, pp. 51-52).
Early arguments for erotic films’ causal role in rape cited as one form of proof the fact that some convicted rapists had erotic films in their possession or claimed that ‘porn made me do it’ (Strossen 1995, p. 256). . Premature or inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit content Depictions of sexual behaviour may be emotionally disturbing to the individual who encounters them. In the first place, children and adolescents may be shocked, troubled, or disturbed by premature or inadvertent encounters with sexually explicit material per se.
They may be at an age or developmental level where they are unaware of and inexperienced in sexual activities. Or they may be unfamiliar with or uninterested in sexually explicit details so that involuntary exposure to such portrayals is surprising and upsetting. A recent survey found that 53 per cent of young people aged 11 to 17 had seen or experienced something on the television they thought was offensive or disgusting (Aisbett 2001).
Pornography dominated the list of content reported, although there is insufficient detail to determine whether the material was troubling because it was sexually explicit or because it was offensive in some more particular way. the young people said that they felt ‘sick’, ‘yuck’ ‘disgusted’, ‘repulsed’ and ‘upset’, some were annoyed because the erotic films unexpected and difficult to remove from the screen, and others reported feeling ‘uncomfortable’, ‘shocked’, ‘embarrassed’ or ‘degraded’ by the experience (Aisbett2001, p. 41).
One should not conclude from this study however that adolescents necessarily are disturbed by sexually explicit depictions. Two recent American studies found that 25 to 30 percent of children aged 10 to 17 have had at least one unwanted exposure to erotic films on television in the last year, but also found that the majority of them were not distressed by these. Finally, some children inadvertently exposed to erotic films on television are upset not by its content but by the potential reactions of their parents (Aisbett 2001, p. 41).
They are concerned that their parents may catch them with this content on screen, may be disturbed by this or may not believe that the sexually explicit material was encountered by accident. In turn, some parents are less concerned by the sexual explicitness per se of the material to which their children are exposed but more worried by the fact that exposure occurs in settings without parental guidance and the opportunity to explain how such material is inappropriate and to place it in a context (Thornburgh & Lin 2002, p. 168). Sexual Addiction
Psychologist, Dr. Victor B. Cline has described his observations of pornography’s negative effects after years of treating sexual illnesses: “In over 25 years I have treated approximately 350 males afflicted with sexual addictions (or sometimes referred to as sexual compulsions). In about 94% of the cases, I have found that erotic films on television was a contributor, facilitator, or direct causal agent in the acquiring of these sexual illnesses. I note that Patrick Carnes, the leading U. S. researcher in this area, reports similar findings.
In his research on nearly 1000 sex addicts, as reported in his Don’t Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addictions (Bantam Books, 1991): ‘Among all addicts surveyed 90% of the men and 77% of the women reported pornography as significant to their addiction. ’ I found that nearly all of my adult sexual addicts’ problems started with porn exposure in childhood or adolescence (8 years and older). The typical pattern was exposure to mild porn early with increasing frequency of exposure and eventual later addiction. This was nearly always accompanied by masturbation.
This was followed by an increasing desensitization of the materials’ pathology, escalation to increasingly aberrant and varied kinds of materials, and eventually to acting out the sexual fantasies they were exposed to. While this did on occasion include incest, child molestation, and rape, most of the damage was through compulsive infidelity (often infecting the wife with Herpes or other venereal diseases) and a destruction of trust in the marital bond which in many cases led to divorce and a breaking up of the family. The inappropriate acceptance and adoption of non-mainstream sexual practices In the case of the third type of potential negative effect, the harm is seen to be associated with the practice itself. Sexual behaviours involving bondage, sadomasochism, trans-sexuality, urination, defecation, bestiality and rape are widely regarded as harmful, immoral or unethical in and of themselves, and indeed some are criminal offences. At the same time, cultural judgements of their acceptability can be internally complex.
For example, while the majority of individuals condemn rape or sexual assault, one in seven young people expresses support for beliefs that condone or legitimate rape and sexual coercion. This is because behaviours such as sadomasochism, bestiality and rape are judged by many commentators to be offensive by their nature; portrayals of these behaviours are also seen as harmful. In the first place, such portrayals involve enacting the behaviour in the sense that the act has to be practised if it is to be photographed or filmed. Moreover, portrayals of ‘extreme’ sexual behaviour may incite, eroticise and give legitimacy to it.
Thus, the argument goes, it is inappropriate for anyone to see or indeed produce such portrayals, and it is particularly harmful for minors to view such portrayals because they are still in the process of emotional and sexual development, are impressionable and are therefore more vulnerable to influence. In viewing images of non-mainstream sexual behaviour, children and adolescents may come to see such abhorrent practices as acceptable or desirable and may adopt them themselves. This argument therefore depends on two claims regarding the likely impact of exposure and the ethical status of the sexual practices at stake.
One version of this argument has been around for a long time, the notion of the ‘recruitment’ of children into homosexuality. A longstanding concern among conservative religious advocates has been that children are recruited into homosexuality through its ‘promotion’, including sexually explicit homosexual imagery. In addition, some parents may be concerned for example that their adolescent son or daughter, ‘confused’ about their developing sexuality, will adopt a gay or lesbian identity following exposure to homosexual materials.
However, there is no evidence that being exposed to sexually explicit materials, or indeed any kind of representation, can change a person’s overall sexual orientation, their attraction to one sex or the other. Indeed, systematic efforts to convert individuals from homosexual to heterosexual using therapy, electric shock treatment and other ‘treatments’ have a long record of failure (Allgeier & Allgeier 1995, pp. 506-508). Thus, the adolescent son’s or daughter’s likelihood of developing a homosexual identity is no more (or less) likely following exposure to homosexual representations.
On the other hand, if the son or daughter does have access to information which is supportive of sexual diversity, they are more likely to accept their own fluctuating desires regardless of their final sexual orientation. In the context of a silence about homosexuality in their everyday lives, young men and women use erotic films to watch on Television to learn what to do when having sex, to improve their knowledge about sexual behaviour or as a substitute for sexual relationships. There is not yet a body of evidence ith which to assess with any certainty whether young people exposed to eroticised images or accounts of anal intercourse, bondage, bestiality and so on are more likely to adopt these than young people who have not viewed such material. Conclusion There are good theoretical reasons to believe that television and other media can play an important role in educating children and adolescents about sexuality. Media portrayals surround children, and young people are intensely interested in sexuality, romance, and relationships. The few experimental studies show that television has the potential to change viewers’ attitudes and knowledge.
There is also some evidence that such personal factors as interest in sexual content, level of understanding, perceived reality, and parental mediation modify the influence of sexual messages. Much more empirical work is needed to substantiate the claim that naturally occurring sexual content in the media actually does cause changes